'Gas Chambers' Facebook Group One of Several That Sold Neo-Nazi Merchandise to Fund Far-Right Groups

Facebook has been criticized for hosting dozens of accounts that fund neo-Nazi and extremist groups, including storefronts offering racist and anti-Semitic clothing and record labels featuring bands with names such as Gas Chambers.

According to a report from the UK-Based Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Facebook and Instagram were hosting more than 40 fascist and neo-Nazi pages that promote far-right merchandise.

As well as neo-Nazi merchandise, these pages—with more than 80,000 followers in total—also promoted imagery declaring that alleged Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse "was right." The 17-year-old is accused of murdering two people during Black Lives Matter protests in the Wisconsin city in August.

The report says these pages use encrypted messaging app Telegram, coordinating efforts to host these shopfronts and adverts on mainstream social media platforms, as well as helping to process payments and further spread propaganda.

The network of accounts promoting clothing with white supremacists slogans and record labels featuring neo-Nazi metal bands are linked to two extremist groups operating out of Ukraine: Azov Battalion and Misanthropic Division.

The CCDH says they first made Facebook aware of this activity on its site two years ago, but the social media giant failed to act.

"Even if Facebook acts to remove this material after we release this report, it is too late. It has already allowed extremists to design, test and execute a finance solution for their activities," said Imran Ahmed, chief executive of CCDH.

"Its failure to act underscores the hypocrisy of its public claims to support racial and social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter, while allowing Neo-Nazis to act with impunity."

Among the examples highlighted in the report is an account called Stay Brave Streetwear, which sold sells clothing featuring neo-Nazi imagery both on its website and directly on Facebook.

The Walknvt Facebook page also sells T-shirts and patches bearing the Misanthropic Division's name and logo, as well as a T-shirt with the slogan "support your local Einsatzkommando"—a reference to the Nazi death squad dedicated to killing Jews, communists and other groups.

Elsewhere on Facebook, Mexican-based record label The Flame of Lvcifer promotes music from a band called Gas Chambers—who also have their own Facebook page—as well as Agkistrodon, a band with a record called "Rats" that contains anti-Semitic imagery.

The report says Facebook should have been aware of activity on its site by the Ukrainian far-right paramilitary group Azov Battalion, given that they banned the movement and its leaders from the platform more than a year ago.

Despite this, ads and accounts that fund the group continue to appear on the site, as well as other pages and posts linked to the far-right organization.

"In the last couple of years, participants of Azov-affiliated groups have used violence against vulnerable groups in Ukrainian society and threatened public officials, with social media serving as an important tool to organize these actions and share their results," Matthew Schaaf, who leads the Ukraine office of the human rights group Freedom House, told BuzzFeed News.

"Many of these assaults are accompanied by before-and-after propagandistic posts on social media."

A spokesperson for the British Jewish charity Community Security Trust (CST) told Newsweek: "We have repeatedly warned that policies banning hate on social media are worthless if not properly enforced.

"It's not good enough for Facebook to belatedly remove hate after others find it; they need to know how it got there and how their systems again failed."

Responding to the criticism, Facebook said it had removed four million pieces of content "tied to organised hate" between July and September, and that "over 97 percent of which we found before it was reported."

In a statement, the company added: "We have removed the content which violates our policies prohibiting dangerous organisations. We regularly work to improve our technology to find and remove this content faster and, while there is more work to do, we are making progress.

"We've banned over 250 white supremacist organisations from Facebook and Instagram, and remove content that praises, supports or represents these groups whenever we find it."

This article has been updated with comment from Facebook and CST.

 Azov Battalion
Volunteers in the paramilitary Azov Battalion attend an oath of allegiance ceremony at Sofiyska Square, Kiev before they leave for the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine to fight pro-Russian separatists. Martyn Aim/Corbis/Getty